Bush’s presidential leadership

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(Host) Commentator Jeff Wennberg sees preparations for war with Iraq as a test of presidential leadership.

(Wennberg) During his nearly two years in office, there are a few things George W. Bush has demonstrated quite clearly. First, he pretty much says what he means. Second, he takes time to deliberate before he acts. Third, when he chooses a course of action he pursues it with tenacity. And fourth, about two-thirds of the American people have come to trust him.

And it’s this last fact – coupled with the amazing conversion of world opinion following his speech at the United Nations – that has formerly recalcitrant Democrats tripping over one another to support the use of force against Iraq. In fact, Bush’s recent public relations campaign on Iraq has been one of the most impressive displays of presidential leadership in memory. Fred Barnes, writing for the Weekly Standard, put it this way:

“By acting boldly, by insisting Saddam must go, by declaring the United States is ready to remove him unilaterally, the president has all but guaranteed that Saddam’s days are numbered. As impressive as Bush was in the weeks after September 11, his performance in the past two weeks has been his finest hour.”

How did he do it? Just days ago Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and others were questioning everything about the administration’s plans. With the notable exception of Britain’s Tony Blair, world leaders seemed more fearful of George W. Bush than Saddam Hussein.

The answer has been stated by Bush himself on many occasions. This president is a very patient man. A couple of weeks ago the news media and Congressional leaders were working themselves into a lather over the prospect of military action without Congressional or UN sanction. What few noticed during this avalanche of angst was that the president had never said he wouldn’t seek Congressional or UN support. He patiently let the pressure build for weeks and then, fully prepared for the debate, he popped the bubble.

Bush was equally deliberative when he prepared our forces and the American people for the war in Afghanistan. Fears that he would react precipitously were founded upon a fundamental misunderstanding of the man. A misunderstanding that many on the left cling to like an insecurity blanket.

Many ask, why now? What’s changed?

As far as we know, nothing’s changed since 1998 when the inspectors were kicked out and President Clinton then called upon Congress to support the use of force to prevent Saddam from building an “arsenal of devastating destruction.” Saddam hasn’t changed, we have. As Congress investigates the intelligence failures leading up to September 11, we have a new appreciation for the threats aligned against us. We recognize that if we allow Saddam to provide the means of a future attack we all but invite it.

Bush knows he must first deal with the political realities of military action in Iraq, but whatever course he finally chooses, one thing is certain: Saddam Hussein will not survive it. And the sooner he’s gone, the better.

This is Jeff Wennberg in Rutland.

Jeff Wennberg is a former mayor of Rutland.

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